Wrappings of power: a woman's burial in cattle hide at Langwell Farm, Strath Oykel
cist, human remains, cairn, barrow, animal hide
Langwell Farm; Strath Oykel; Easter Ross; Highland; Scotland; UK
Early Bronze Age
A well-preserved burial, discovered during peat clearing on Langwell Farm in Strath Oykel, Easter Ross, consisted of a stone cist that held the skeleton of a woman who had died in 2200–1960 cal bc. Although the cist contents were disturbed and partly removed before archaeological investigation took place, the burial rite can be interpreted to some extent. The woman, who died in her late 20s, had been wrapped in brown cattle hide, and wooden and woven objects were placed with her body. Periodic waterlogging created conditions that allowed the rare, partial preservation of the organic materials. Analysis of bone histology indicated that decay of the human remains had been arrested, either by deliberate mummification or by waterlogging. The cist had been set into a low knoll on the valley floor and it may have been covered with a low cairn or barrow. This spot had been the site of a fire several hundred years earlier, and it may have been a node on a cross-country route linking east and west coasts in the Early Bronze Age. The use of animal hide suggests the creation and use of particular identities, linking the dead to ancestors and to powerful spiritual properties attributed to the natural world. The work was carried out for Historic Scotland under the Human Remains Call-off Contract.
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